Downgrading Drone Medals

by Carey Wedler

It is news today that “the US military has stopped production of a new medal for drone and cyber warfare.” It seems that with the “centrist” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the dogmatic attitude of the military might be changing. Perhaps war with Iran would be unwise, and maybe it is not respectable to murder civilians and countless children with drones directed by soldiers using video game joysticks.

But then again, this suspension of the medal comes only “after critics called the award an insult to combat veterans.” As it happens, the reason that awards are temporarily suspended for drone operators has nothing to do with the immorality of the program itself. It is not because drone pilots arbitrarily kill civilians and the government slaps an “enemy combatant” label on the mission to save face. It is because the threat that praise for this position poses devalues the blood of soldiers who are willing to die for their country. The Air Force is particularly offended, for their pilots do not sit in the comfort of swivel chairs.

According to the opinion of the military and consideration of Hagel, drone operators are potentially lesser men . They might as well be equivalent to gamers living in their mother’s basements. They face no risk of mangling or death and they do not possess the valiance so obviously required to fly to a foreign land and kill fellow humans face to face.Their technical savvy falls far below the honor and respect commanded of a real, bleeding heart veteran. And so these faux-soldiers’ medals have been suspended. At least temporarily, while the Senate spends its valuable time drafting a bill to downgrade the importance of the medal an operator can receive. The pilots in question can rest assured their efforts will still be recognized.

But in this internal military debate rests a more unsettling and unacknowledged reality of the American military state. While the medal should be downgraded because cowardly murder behind a screen should not be considered equivalent to real, live slaughter, few cogs in the machine question whether any medals should be awarded at all. The mentality built around a “purple heart” and other medals of “honor” suggests that in being a killer for the American military, one earns a moral high ground and designation of superiority. The more one bleeds, the better they become. The more one kills, the more they are worth.

The question at hand should not only be why any military official should be awarded accolades for the destruction of human life, but why this obliteration of peace and humanity should be conducted at all. Whether soldiers are commemorated through medals, statues, or grand ceremonies, the deeper question lies with why Americans are conditioned to pay reverence to those who take innocent life on the dime of the complicit taxpayer. When this question is addressed,whether in the near or distant future, there may be a chance for a world without any military at all.

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